Holy Paradoxical Parody Batman!
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders makes for a perfect blend of throwback to the classic 60s series and parody of it.For the generations that grew up on the classic camp 60s Batman TV series, or reruns of the same, which played for the best part of 30 years, Caped Crusaders is an intriguing production. It could have been a wasted foray into just shooting some animated versions of unshot scripts, proving of limited appeal even amidst veteran fans, but instead they crafted something far more original, and far more entertaining. Although ostensibly delivering a thrilling classic feature-length episode-style narrative packed with all the original heroes and villains (including the Joker, Riddler and Penguin), Caped Crusaders appears just as committed to dismantling all of the hilarious cliches of the same show, mocking it at every stage, but in a very knowing and surprisingly respectful way.Adam West and Burt Ward - despite sounding pretty old in terms of their vocal contributions - make the return to the series far more authentic, and it's great to see them in on the jokes, along with Julie Newmar's Catwoman, mocking the dynamic duo's adherence to the letter of the law by avoiding jay-walking. There's a ridiculous escape from dastardly death by using the acid in cheesecake to weaken the bonds in their ropes and the pair decrypt the Riddler's complex clues in a hilarious fashion. Robin's ballet practice leaves him sore for fights, and leaving the Batcave involves passing through some preposterous gates. With tongue firmly in cheek to the extreme, the self-mockery is obviously going to be funnier for ardent fans of the original series, but it's a clever take on the camp classic.
Picture QualityBatman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders hits UK Region Free Blu-ray with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the features original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Although the animation, in terms of style, colours and detail, appears in-line with the format for the majority of the animated Batman titles, its distinguished by a particular attention to detail when it comes to making the characters resemble their TV series counterparts.
The animated characters actually resemble their live-action TV series counterparts
The colour scheme is broad and unabashedly revels in the same vibrant tones which populated said TV show, but finer touches like the reflection on Riddler's staff or Catwoman's leather outfit give the image a nice edge. Line detail is strong, and shading impressive, whilst black levels are rich and deep, allowing for decent shadow detail. It's hard to compare to live action features, but this title stands up well alongside its other animated peers.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track makes for a similarly rich and oftentimes engulfing affair, promoting the material in the best possible way, and delivering dialogue, effects and an authentic score with suitable aplomb.
The classic theme further soaks the piece in nostalgia
Much like the attention to detail on the characters, the tribute to the original series is further enhanced here by the presence of the original cast - at least those who are still alive - whose now-gruff, ageing vocals still play true in recollection of the classic show. Dialogue is well-prioritised throughout, whilst effects whip up the usual maestrom of car growls, simmering furnaces and on-screen chaos coming to life and spilling into your living room. Surround and LFE usage is surprisingly good for an animated affair.
However it's the score that, unsurprisingly, does the heavy lifting with the action - as per the TV's format - punctuated by trademark instrumental twangs, and the classic theme further soaking the piece in nostalgia.
ExtrasAlthough only boasting a small selection of extras, the disc is still far from bare bones, with two key 10 minute Featurettes: Those Dastardly Desperados looking at the villains of the piece, and A Classic Cadre of Voices dipping behind the scenes of the returning actors who lent their voices to the characters. The disc is rounded off by some Trailers for other animated Batman outings.
Blu-ray VerdictAt times playing like an animated version of the classic 60s Batman TV series as seen through the lens of razor-sharp satirical fare like the excellent Archer (and even reminiscent in terms of the same animated style), Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders takes a knowing wink at the camp cliches of the show, both faithfully replicating them and also constantly poking fun at them, in a way that will be often laugh-out-loud funny, for those in on the joke.
Caped Crusaders is often laugh-out-loud funny, for those in on the joke
The Blu-ray release boasts strong video and audio as well as a couple of nice accompanying Featurettes to round out the disc. Fans - or those familiar with - the original TV show should definitely investigate it; it's far more than just a retreading of old ground, and it's not an updated reboot either, instead faithfully staying true to the roots, whilst addressing the more preposterous aspect of the camp classic with gleeful send-ups aplenty.
You can buy Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders on Blu-ray here
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